These pictures are about as awful as they come. But I just had to document them because this is the most wonderful Charlotte tradition. All of the LDS (our faith) Stakes (a group of congregations) in the area come together to put on several different Nativity Festivals. Each Nativity Festival has hundreds of nativities that are shared by people in the congregations. The gym in the church is beautifully decorated and the nativities are on display for the public to come and see. We've invited several friends each year and it has really become an amazing experience for us. It was hard for Annie to keep her hands off of the nativities but she did a great job. It really helped drive home the idea of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. She really caught on to that this year. In one of the rooms was a collection that someone (not of our faith) had donated after being so touched by the festival last year. This woman had probably 100 nativities. It was something that I really admired. I would love to have my Christmas decor surrounding the savior. This is a favorite tradition and one I hope to carry with me if we ever leave this great city. I love my Charlotte family.
One of our favorite little traditions. Annie got to see Santa again and had no fear hopping right up there. We went with our friends the Campbells and met up with Dad for dinner after. It was a fun night Uptown with my little adventurer.
It was our year for Thanksgiving with the Barkers and we were so excited to get up to DC to be with them. A few moving parts led us to James' basketball game at 7 pm on Tuesday night where he had a blast playing with coworkers and Annie worked on her cheerleading skills, then we crazily hit the road at 7...for the 7 hour drive. I had a segment scheduled the next day at noon in DC and we wanted to allow James to work Tuesday. It was a tad insane. But somehow, it worked out for the best. A storm was rolling in the next morning and we narrowly missed it. We got in just in time for a few hours of shut eye before I headed out the next morning for my segment at Let's Talk Live (the abc affiliate) in DC. We talked last minute travel tips. Love this show.
On Thanksgiving morning I convinced Allison and Melissa to try out the new SoulCycle studio with me in downtown DC. We had to go to an early class as they didn't allow newbies in the Turkey burn, which was 90 minutes. It was another early morning. I loved every second! I've been waiting over a year to try out SoulCycle and it didn't disappoint. Though I must admit, I am still a Flywheel girl at heart. I was surprised by the differences in the feel of the class. SoulCycle is obviously much more dancy. We burned a few calories and were ready to dig into our Thanksgiving feast!
This might be one of my all time favorite family photos. I love Annie's giggly grin. It was just a good day. I am so lucky to be carrying this sweet baby boy Barker in my belly and felt especially thankful this holiday. A part of me wonders if I knew that so many trials were ahead. I had tears on that day thanking my Heavenly Father for my wonderful, wonderful life. SO many things have come together for James and I in the last year. Last holiday season was a bit rough as we had many questions as to what we wanted for our future. We've decided to stay in Charlotte for awhile longer and feel really great about our decision. James is happy here. I am happy here. And on this day I relished the feeling that for once in my life I wasn't yearning for the next step. I was finding happiness in my now. It was a feeling I remember relishing that day.
Ann made a beautiful, beyond beautiful Thanksgiving dinner. We had the Inuoeyes, Ryan, Tyler and the Behnke's over and had a great time laughing and being happy. I especially remember Lizzie being in such a wonderful place on that day. She was glowing. It would be our last holiday with our dear Lizzie and we are so thankful that it was one built around family, yummy food and good conversation. It was a little snowy and cold outside that morning but James, Tyler and Lizzie took Benji and Annie outside to play for a little bit and toss the football. I remember watching out the window as Lizzie tossed the football to our sweet Annie. Annie looks so much like her and radiates the same type of light Lizzie does. I am so thankful that she had that holiday with her.
While in DC we had Jim and Ann give Annie her presents for Christmas so that they could see her reaction when she opened them, specifically this one. I knew Ann had picked up this gorgeous Cinderella dress for Annie while in Paris and I really wanted her to see her face when she opened it. She was in heaven. Poppy went above and beyond this year as well. He went shopping all by himself to find her a darling duplo block set for girls. Annie was ecstatic and I think Poppy was even more excited! She sure is loved by her grandparents.
We got to spend quite a bit of time with Wess and Melissa, who were in town (from their new home in Cleveland) visiting the Fausts. It was such a treat. I am so glad to have a part of my STG family out east so that we can meet up on occasion. We adore these two. We went on a double date with them downtown to a yummy restaurant and then drove around to see a few of the monuments. We got out at the Jefferson to show them where we got engaged. It's by far our favorite monument, obviously. We were the only ones at the monument for about 15 minutes. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Then we hit up Shake Shack and headed back home. Good food, the best company and lots of good laughs.
I took this photo before we left for our drive back to Charlotte. I was quite emotional this trip. I am guessing it was due to pregnancy, but who knows. But I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my wonderful second set of parents. Ann pretty much spent the whole weekend babysitting Annie. She adores her Nana Barker! Jim helped us make some decisions as we are looking into a bigger family car and was a great guiding force. I feel so fortunate that both James and I have parents that would do absolutely anything for us. I remember leaving this trip on a high, thinking how wonderful it was to have them in my life.
This trip is cemented in my mind forever as it would be the last time we would see our dear Lizzie. James and I have been overwhelmed by the thought that a huge reason we were supposed to stay in Charlotte longer than expected was so that we could have more time with Lizzie. It is likely we would not have gone to DC if were in California or somewhere else. We are so thankful for the extra time we have had with her during our time in Charlotte. This picture really gets me. Her eyes are so vibrant and so alive. I always loved how she'd curl up on that couch with Benji for a good visit. Lizzie was the first Barker that I knew, in our Alpine Village ward. She was the most beautiful, happy, smiley girl I have ever known. Even with all of her popularity at BYU, she was one of the kindest people I knew. She was always doing for others. She took me in as a sister while in Provo and showed me such love from the very start, just as she would with anyone. Despite all of the challenges she faced in this life, she did nothing but show unconditional love towards me. We had a special bond and many good conversations over the years. I especially remember her visiting for Annie's first birthday and how much that meant. She loved her niece Annie. James and I have had fun recounting our last visit to DC. We were able to go to the zoo with the family which wound up semi being a disaster because of the cold but Lizzie held Annie for most of the time and snapped lots of pictures with her. We went to dinner and after got locked out of a parking garage. It was quite comical as we tried to finagle our way into the garage. Things were always an adventure with Lizzie. At one point Lizzie, Allison and Ryan set up a little obstacle coarse for Annie at the Barkers house.. They'd bounce her on their knees and let her do airplane. Annie was a giggling machine! Our last memory was saying goodbye to her as she left to go home Saturday night. We were laughing about how concerned everyone was about Benji sleeping over with Lizzie and we gave her a giant hug as she left the house. It was such a happy goodbye. It was light hearted, giggly and perfect. What a wonderful Thanksgiving it was.
Since we were traveling a lot for the holidays this year we decided to do our Barker Christmas Kickoff day one week before Thanksgiving, so we could enjoy the tree a little bit longer. Annie woke up to her old friend Buddy the elf (who I originally named Barnard, but James vetoed it). Buddy brought her Christmas jammies to wear for the season. She couldn't get over buddy and kept saying "oh - he's so cuuuute." We read her the book and watched the little Elf on the Shelf movie to try and help her understand not to touch Buddy (it wasn't all that successful).
That afternoon we went to the mall for a little Christmas paroozing and to meet Santa. It was perfect because there was no line for Santa before Thanksgiving. Annie wore my dress that I wore on Santa's lap 24 years ago. Everyone was GUSHING over her dress and I was happy to see it was still in style. She as the belle of the ball at Santa. The afternoon before we had done some Christmas crafting and painted a picture for Santa. Annie waltzed right up to Santa and gave him her painting. She told him she wanted a "crib for Baby Lulu and a choo choo train."
After the mall we came home for some snuggle time and a nap. Then it was off to pick out our tree at the traditional Charlotte Queens Road location, Simpsons Farm. This is where we got our tree last year and have loved making it a yearly tradition. We picked out the perfect little number with Annie's help. She loved watching it get tied to the top of the car and it all seemed so magical this year. We brought her in the house and got it all set up. Daddy helped us get some lights on the tree before heading to a movie with some friends while Annie and I spent the evening trimming the tree. Annie especially loved laying out all of the ornaments this year. She was truly in heaven. It was a simple tree but boy did it bring us a lot of joy this year. I felt a special excitement for the Christmas season as I was carrying a little boy. It was a magical start to our Christmas season.
Hillary and I signed the girls up for ballet at Covenant Presbyterian through Launch Your Kid, since we both worked or contracted with them in the past. The girls looked forward to Monday night and loved being with each other. In the beginning they got into a little trouble because they weren't listening too well. We had to give them pep talks each week and Hillary and I eventually had to go downstairs so they weren't further distracted by their Mamas. It was a hoot. I love these two mini pistol personalities together. I loved watching Annie learn her ballet positions and how to flex and point. She was a great little ballerina and really excelled in class. Classes ended in November with a parent watch day. Proud of my little pink ballerina!
This is one HUGE dump. And some of these things really deserve their own post. But in an attempt to get caught up, I am running with it.
Halloween joy school. They loved "J is for Jack-o-Lantern" day.
After big fights over the crib, Annie slept her first night in her big girl bed. I could hardly believe she really did it and guessed she'd be in my bed all night. This transitions as so much easier than I expected. I think she was just ready. At first we kept her crib in her room and just let her sleep in the office/nursery on this bed. But after several weeks, we made the swap. She's never looked back since.
I started to show. But looking back at this now makes me laugh. I'd kill to look like my 18 week self again.
I ate this nearly every day of my second trimester.
We went to Meet the Mormon's with a bunch of friends. I loved every second of it. We topped it off with Pinkberry, which has since closed. Sad day! It was a perfect date night.
This is one of my favorite photos. Sister Eisenhower lived not to far from us and often needed help grocery shopping after a surgery. Annie and I had the blessing of helping her a few times and it was the first time I really got to teach Annie about "service." I loved hearing Annie talk about how service makes us feel good. We took her to church that morning and my heart nearly burst as she reached up to hold Sister Eisenhower's hand. 1 point for team Mom!
Swimming lessons continued with Miss Kristen at Charlotte Swim Academy. We miss her so much *(she changed jobs - but we still love CSA) and are so proud of Annie's progress in the pool. We are hopeful she will be able to jump in, do three strokes and flip to her back to breath before the summer. We still have a ways to go but are so proud of all she has accomplished so far.
Again, these photos make me laugh. I thought I was so huge. Sigh.
Annie got really excited for the trip when these shirts arrived! I have some fun videos of her in the bath saying that Papa was turning 2, so we were going to have a party. I am certain that age would make him feel really good.
Annie learned the beauty of falling asleep with a good book!
James was pretty swamped in September/October this year so we took full advantage of a beautiful fall day with Daddy home and visited Hodges Farm. Annie loves the animals there. She was especially excited to feed the miniature horse "salad" aka grass. That was until he semi bit her hand, which scared me quite a bit. We encouraged her to feed him again and she conquered her fears. It was one of those picture perfect days.
We had ballet class with Lily every Monday and Annie and I would often meet up with Rachel and Avery after for Chipotle or go to Crisp for dinner. I love my little buddy,
Flying into California. Annie did so great that trip! I was beyond proud of her! Even when Mom nearly lost her cookies several times on the flight. She was so pooped by the end of the day. It was almost 1 am her time by the time we got to the hotel. She was a trooper.
We had a blast playing with Kourtney and Jessie and Nate at Strands Beach.
We tried to practice trick or treating and even took her bucket for a ride around the neighborhood on a scooter. Annie was a hoot this day.
R is for Rainbow! I had most of this stuff on hand. It was a fun joy school day for me. I love this stage of motherhood.
I got this puzzle for $2 at a consignment sale and it has been the most played with toy in our home. Annie did this puzzle about 20 times a day for a few weeks. The "crab puzzle" is a hit.
I am certain that some of these may be from another month, but I am rolling with the punches. I had a "S is for Snow" joy school day at my house too. Kirby had her nephew with her so she brought them up to my place. It was quite the circus as we made snow out of baking soda and conditioner and it ended up all over my house. But the kids did love it.
We also made snowmen pizza. Annie's wound up looking a little like ET. You win some, you lose some.
Annie loved the changing and falling leaves and loved collecting them outside our house in her basket.
This girls weekend really deserves a post of it's own. My close friends Alli and Sarah came into Charlotte for a girls weekend and it was one for the books! We did lots of eating, shopping, more eating, more shopping and spent the night at the Ritz after seeing So You Think You Can Dance Uptown. James stayed with Annie and it was just what I needed. We even drove to Asheville for a tasty dinner. These girls are worth their weight in gold. Talking with them in the car for hours on end changed me and made me a better person. It made me miss my sweet Annie and cherish being a Mom. I talked so much that weekend that I COMPLETELY lost my voice. It was a hoot. Oh, and I tried fried pickles. Actually, quite delicious. But maybe it's just the pregnancy talking!
Charlotte in the fall is my very favorite. I could drive these streets allllll day and see the vibrant colors. I have really fallen for this city of ours. These colors make me yearn for the leaves to pop on the trees. I love this green, green place that we live!
One Saturday in October it was unseasonably cold for CLT. James was working so Annie and I trekked to Starbucks for a hot cocoa and steamer. I wound up spilling it all over myself and it ended up being quite hilarious. When we got home I wanted to take a little selfie to document but all Annie wanted was a selfie of her and Aurora, and then me and Aurora. These pictures are so embarrassing but I couldn't resist. I can just hear her now saying "say cheeeeese Mama."
I had the chance to do an achievement days activity on modesty. Those achievement days girls are truly the best! It made me realize how much I love fashion and really hope to teach Annie a good, healthy love for fashion and modesty. We had lots of starbursts and I ate my weight in them. It was a busy day as I then bustled off to a Charlotte Smarty Pants dinner. Thank goodness for a good babysitter that night.
And one last hysterical pregnancy photo. I think I must have been about 21 weeks here.
ANNNND that's October in a nutshell. Phew. On to November.